Thursday, 23 February 2012

1.4 Billion Reasons Review

Photo: Howard Lake

Twenty five percent of the world's population are living in extreme poverty. That's 1.4 billion people living on less that $1.25 a day. 

These are the shocking figures brought to the fore by the Global Poverty Project and its multi-media presentation called 1.4 Billion Reasons. The University of Lincoln's Article 25 Society recently brought Richard Blakesley in to explain all about it. Mr Blakesley works with the Global Poverty Project and has had an active involvement in movements for social justice based around education, campaigning and advocacy for the past twenty five years.

Mr Blakesley started the presentation by asking the question:
 “What is extreme poverty?”
He went on to explain that it involves living on less than $1.25 a day. That small sum of money has to cover vital living expenses such as food and water, as well as things like education, travel costs and health care. He then portrayed a scenario a parent living in extreme poverty might have to deal with explaining that if a mother's child falls ill one day, they would have to make the decision to either eat or get health care. 

A potential life or death decision. 

He then touched on the inequalities of the world saying “There's enough food in the world to feed everybody yet every night over one billion go to bed hungry”.

Mr Blakesley also posed a question to the audience. He said: 
“If twenty five percent of the world's population live in extreme poverty then, how do we get it down to zero?” 
The audience came up with some very respectable answers such as “Cancellation of third world debt”, “More support from richer countries” and “More international aid”. The latter solution of more aid sparked a short debate between Mr Blakesley and a member of the audience revolving around the conception that aid is only helpful if its handled in the right way by the right people.

According to Mr Blakesley however, there are certain barriers which are preventing us from ending extreme poverty around the world. He cited corruption in governments as a major barrier and in particular the extraction of resources. 

He gave Teodorin Obiang, the agriculture minister of Equatorial Guinea, as an example who despite earning a salary of £51,000 a year, somehow manages to own a $31 million compound in Malibu amongst many other prized assets. However referring to the US Justice Departments seizure of over $70 million of his assets Mr Blakesley said “Good work is going on to fight corruption and good work is going on regarding resource extraction”.

Moving on to the next section of his presentation, Mr Blakesley posed the question “Why should we care about extreme poverty?” before answering his own question with some very thought provoking words. He said: 
“Each generation gets the chance to do something great and this is our chance. I believe extreme poverty can be beaten. We're the first generation that can do that and it's a responsibility”. 
He then gave some facts and figures which showed that $100 billion had been spent on Millennium development Goals compared to a shocking $5.2 trillion on the US financial bailout. He said:
 “It's about time we held our leaders to account about the crisis of humanity. Twenty five percent of the worlds population live in extreme poverty and it's affordable to end it”.
Mr Blakesley rounded off the presentation with a short question and answer format with the audience before ending with some inspiring words. He said:
 “Somehow, whatever way we do it, we want to see people living out of extreme poverty”.

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